Hamptons Fitness Mag Strives For Breathing Room, Expands To Manhattan

Local magazine/directory hybrids that have tried to expand their geographical reach don't exactly boast the best track record. All too often, publications with such aspirations end up underserving both their core niche as well as their expanded base. The result? Flagging support from the very same local advertisers that fueled their growth in the first place.

Gina Flinchum, founder and publisher of Hamptons-focused fitness and wellness title Inhale|Exhale, claims to have heard many of the horror stories. But as she prepares to debut a Manhattan edition of her diminutive (8" by 4.5") guidebook later this month, Flinchum is armed with a healthy sense of the title's limitations. "Hey, we're not Conde Nast," she shrugs. "What we've done, we've done very well on a limited scale. This is obviously a big step for us."

Since its launch in the Hamptons three years ago, Inhale|Exhale has evolved from a small local directory into a publication that seeks to be both a resource ("we're the bible out there for sports and fitness") and a legit editorial voice. "When I go away, something like this is the first thing I look for," she explains. "A few years ago in the Hamptons, I wanted to find a spinning class. I wanted to go kayaking. There wasn't enough information in the Yellow Pages." As for launching in the middle of a recession, Flinchum spins her timing as fortuitous: "Even in a bad economy, people are going to take care of themselves. Given all the stress, actually, it's more important during times like that. But a lot of the time, people don't know that spas or massage therapists are right down the street from them, which is where we come in."

The challenge, of course, has been finding advertisers beyond local yoga clinics, especially at a time when few are willing to take a chance on a small and relatively unproven entity. Flinchum has national aspirations - the mag just landed its first non-New York client, a pilates apparatus manufacturer based in California - and is hoping that the higher visibility afforded by its Manhattan presence will get the Nikes and Avons interested. Other ad categories she covets are travel (spas like the Canyon Ranch), local galleries, interior designers and just about anything health- or style-related.

Inhale|Exhale is set to distribute 80% of its fall/winter issue in Manhattan, with the other 20% going to its Hamptons base (for the spring/summer edition, that ratio will be reversed). Flinchum prints 50,000 copies of each issue, and has cemented deals to distribute them at Equinox gyms, Oasis Day Spa and around 200 high-rise apartment buildings.

Inhale|Exhale's success in New York probably rests on the magazine becoming something of a word-of-mouth phenomenon among local businesses. "Advertisers need to know we're for real," she acknowledges. "It wouldn't hurt to get it in front of travel agents. They need something like this and they're very connected." The publication doesn't have much in the way of syndicated data, but from readership surveys Flinchum pegs its audience as women between the ages of 35 and 42, with a household income of around $98,000.

Flinchum says she doesn't consider any of the NY-centric publications a direct competitor (and they probably don't spend a lot of time worrying about a 50,000-circ magazine-cum-directory cutting into their take), but attempts to differentiate Inhale|Exhale nonetheless. "There are certain guidebooks at book stores, but they won't have our visibility," she predicts. "TimeOut New York is a listing magazine that doesn't focus on a single topic like we do. New York magazine might have a few pages on a spa, but not very often. You can read about some of the topics in Shape or Fitness, but the things they're talking about might be located across the country."

Assuming the Manhattan edition of Inhale|Exhale takes, Flinchum already has her eye on Miami and the Berkshires as possible expansion targets. "Lots of startups don't make it to their third year," she says. "That's where we are now, and people are starting to pay closer attention. I don't think saying that we're going to grow is overly optimistic." Look for the mag to jump its circulation to between 100,000 and 150,000 within the next 24 months, and possibly to increase its frequency to four times per year.

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